Today, we're delving into two offerings from the Abhainn Dearg Distillery, nestled by the Red River on the Isle of Lewis's western shore. This site boasts the title of Scotland's most secluded distillery. Established in 2008 by Marko Tayburn, he eschewed the conventional pot stills. Instead, he designed and built the stills, taking cues from an ancient clandestine still he had discovered.
The distillery's setup also includes a few small mash tuns and wooden washbacks, all sourced externally. The fermentation phase spans four days. A standout characteristic of their stills is the extended necks, reminiscent of witches' hats, coupled with slender lyne arms descending to external worm tubs. Abhainn Dearg crafts both unpeated and peated spirits.
A significant chapter in its history was the unveiling of its inaugural 10-year-old single malts in December 2018, marking the oldest whisky ever produced by a licensed distillery in the Outer Hebrides.
Abhainn Dearg X
Abhainn Dearg X is the distillery’s 10 year old release. There’s not a lot of detail available on this, but if we had to guess we’d say it’s purely bourbon casks.
To be honest, the first impression is dominantly malty and reminiscent of cereals – it evokes thoughts of Cheerios, which lends a perception of it being younger than 10 years. Apart from these, there are notes of orange rind, of sea breeze, sugar paste, a hint of warm plastic, and vanilla essence. Letting it breathe unveils notes of ripe pears, honey, and a touch of lemon juice.
On the palate, there's runny honey, plasticine, orange peel, honey mustard, and blood orange. The mouthfeel is a little thin, and it has a short finish that quickly transforms into spice. We're finding it a bit one-dimensional and, like the nose, we'd have guessed this was younger than 10 years. To be honest, there's something here that reminds us of new make.
Nose (with water)
Reduction has introduced a chemical note, reminiscent of chlorine. As we sit with it, we're reminded of visiting a hospital and catching a whiff of cleaning fluids. There are also notes of golden oats porridge and caramel, but it has lost many of the pre-dilution notes, such as orange rind, that we enjoyed.
Palate (with water)
With water, it becomes spicier, but not so much that it puts us off the dram. The sweeter notes are predominantly brown sugar and honey. The finish is still short, but the sweetness now lingers longer before transitioning into ginger nut biscuits. The mouthfeel, however, remains disappointing.
There’s probably some one out there that will love this, but for us there’s too many off notes here that we just aren’t enjoying. Not the worst whisky we’ve tried, but definitely not one we feel the need to have again.
For a small distillery that does everything themselves, £79 seems very reasonable.
Abhainn Dearg Cask Strength PX
Price: £95.00 (500ml)
Again, not a lot of detail on this other than it’s 10 years old and full maturation in PX.
We find that the nose is initially quite reserved, but with time, notes of cinnamon, gingerbread, caramel, prunes, buttery croissant, and Fentimans cola emerge. There are also hints of dried apricots and toffee. It's easy to delve deep with your nose into the glass, and we’d have guessed this was a fair bit less than 58%. It's more promising than the standard 10, though the cask influence is predominant.
The palate echoes the nose, dominated by cola, prunes, and ginger-cake. A prominent honey note stands out, leading us to wonder if it's a hallmark of the spirit. There's a touch of tobacco as well. For us, it's slightly on the dry side. The mouthfeel is acceptable but uninspired. The finish has a medium length, with the ginger spice lingering beyond the sweetness.
Nose (with water)
Adding water has muted some of the notes we were getting on the undiluted nose, although we can now detect some treacle cake, fudge, and sherry vinegar. The nose hasn’t really benefited from dilution, and has lost more than it gained.
Palate (with water)
With water, it's spicier and drier, with the honey note diminishing. The sweetness takes on a more synthetic quality. While the finish is somewhat prolonged, the spice continues to overshadow the other notes. The mouthfeel stays largely the same.
It’s a little one dimensional with the cask dominating the dram. Saying that this is a notch above the standard 10, but like the 10 this is nothing we’re overly enamoured with. We’ll go with a 6/10
It’s a little pricey at £95, but we have to be fair and acknowledge it’s a small distillery.
- 10 - Perfection. One in a million
- 9 - Outstanding. Exceptional whisky.
- 8 - Great. Would seek this out.
- 7 - Good. Quality whisky.
- 6 - Above average. Happy to have a dram.
- 5 - Average. Drinkable whisky.
- 4 - Below average. Passable.
- 3 - Flawed. Noticeable negatives.
- 2 - Defective. Significant faults.
- 1 - Offensive. Pour it out.